When introducing the work of Michal Gabriel, it should be mentioned that he started his career as a member of the TVRDOHLAVÍ art group, which entered with full force the Czech cultural life in the late 1980s. Mainly for aesthetic reasons, the group‘s 9 + 1 members responded to the arriving period of postmodernism; however, they also reacted to social and political events in the society. In 1987, these reasons inspired them to form the group, determined to face both the political oppression as well as the aesthetic terror, which often represents the most intolerable form of oppression for the freedom of an artist. In the autumn of 1991, shortly after the Velvet Revolution, the group put its activities to an end, but its members occasionally exhibit together – with and exhibition Tvrdohlaví After 10 Years at the Municipal House in Prague in 1997 and in 1999 with a spectacular exhibition in the Wallenstein Riding School in Prague. The importance of the work of the group was demonstrated in 2000 by the opening of the permanent exhibition of the its work at the Lucerna Palace in Prague.
Like some of his colleagues, Michal Gabriel also set out on the path of teaching and sharing experience with the youngest generation of university students. Since 1998, he was head of the sculpture studio at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Brno University of Technology (FaVU). In 2007 he was appointed associate professor at the Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Prague and in 2000 dean of the FaVU. In 2009 he was appointed professor of art. Last year he won the main prize of the Nord Art Büdelsdorf festival in Germany.
Michal Gabriel's work is inspired by the human figure, exotic flora and fauna, and although he often changes the morphology of his works and the materials he uses, and finds new contexts and references, his work remains focused, metaphorical and lyrical, with a permanent presence of creative endurance and effort to approach a given or chosen theme, leading to an almost Baroque union and expression – sculpture and nature. His sculptures are made of wood, bronze, and recently also of laminate – polyester resin and various coloured plastics such as ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene), and their surfaces often feature original structures made of acorn caps, peach stones, peanuts and walnuts; in recent years, he has been using stainless steel (horses, sharks, beast).
As Michal Gabriel says himself: “By exploring the possibilities, such as different structures of different materials, I can influence the same shape, which brings me closer to the topic of a sculpture group. I have increasingly been interested in structure not only as a natural rational form of a statue, but also as a unifying form. I can achieve unification by using colour or the same material, but I wanted a more distinctive, light-independent principle. For me, structure became a plastic spatial colour, or a filter combining itself into endless, unthought-of stories and relationships of sculptures and shapes.
Michal Gabriel likes to experiment with material, searching for new possibilities for his creative work in this area, which brings him to the use and application of the latest technologies. Remarkable are his sculptures created with the use of 3D technology, which enable the repetition, multiplication and various deformations of shapes. He explains this procedure in a concise way as a journey from sculptor‘s chisel to a digital one, which he develops in a detailed way in his work and also in his teaching at FaVU and in his occasional lectures.
Leoš Lang